Archive for May 2nd, 2019

The Church: What is it?

“I do not need a church. I can worship on my own.”

So, say … many people. But what is the Church? 

There does seem to be some confusion about what church is. Whether we feel like we do not need to attend a church (because we are each the temple of the Holy Spirit of God – which is true) or that the church should be meeting our needs (which, to a point is true) or that we have been wronged by the Church (read the two letters to the Corinthians as well as Galatians. Paul understands!), there are many grievances people have about the Church. 

However, these come from misunderstandings about the Church.  

Likewise, some people assume the Church should be making all the calls about society. While this is technically true, we have plenty of historical evidence to show how this should not be done. (Look at much of the Middle Ages through the Renaissance to see how the Roman Catholic Church and other church-led states messed that up.) Yet, people still think the Church should simply lead government. The US was built on seeing how governments led by religion can mess up societies and religions. Hence the separation of Church and State (to be discussed in greater detail another time!) 

This is a good time to address the other issue: that religion/the Church only made things worse. Again, these are largely based on misunderstandings. 

So, what does the Bible say the Church is? (This will not be an exhaustive survey!)

Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Matthew 16:16-18, ESV

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20, ESV

For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.

Ephesians 3:1-12, ESV

These explain pointedly that the Church is to spread the truth of Christ.

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
Matthew 18:15-20, ESV (as well as much of 1 Corinthians, especially chs. 5-6 (5:12-6:11))

The Church is meant to rout sin and hold each other accountable; that we judge each other within the Church based on God’s Word, and lovingly call each other to account and uphold justice. Why?

1 Corinthians 3 tells us we are individually and collectively the temple of God, where the Holy Spirit dwells. Not a building, per se. And as Hebrews 10:19-25 reminds us, we meet together to ensure we remain strong in the faith, we have the true gospel, and can encourage each other through troubles and into good works. Such that …

But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.

My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

James 5:12-20, ESV

The Church is for confession, prayer, and anointing – the calling of sinners to repentance, praying for healing and repentance, and anointing for healing and ministry. 

Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Galatians 2:10, 6:9-10

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

James 1:27

The Church is to take care of the poor, widows, and orphans. First within the Church, so world may see how we care for family, then in the world, so they may see we love all people.

In summary: 

The Church is the temple of God – the people – who spread the Gospel, encourage each other through teachings, rebukes, confessions, prayer, and good works, and do good things for each other and the world. 

Nowhere in there does it say the Church is for making us feel good or giving us all that we desire in this life. (In fact, 2 Timothy says that these teachings are a sign of the End!) Instead, Philippians 2 reminds us to look to meeting others’ needs before our own, to share the same love Christ shared through the Cross. 

What are your thoughts? Do you think I should have mentioned something else? Comment below (or at the video) or e-mail us at Together@asimplemanofgod.com.

VerseD: Hebrews 12:2

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:2, ESV

What is faith? Jesus is the source. Without the cross and resurrection, we have no basis for faith.

Christ’s faithfulness gives us faith.